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Contains articles and advice on a wide variety of non-venomous snake species. Answers and addresses questions on species husbandry, captive status, breeding, news and conservation issues concerning non-venomous snakes.

Keeping the USA’s Longest Snake: Eastern Indigo Snakes as Pets

Eastern Indigo Snake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Arjuno3

Hi, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.  The magnificent Eastern Indigo Snake, Drymarchon couperi, is the longest of all snakes native to the USA, but occupies one of the smallest ranges.  These facts, along with stunning coloration and its reputation as a responsive pet, place the Indigo on the wish lists of serious snake keepers and zoos worldwide.  I had the good fortune to assist with an Eastern Indigo breeding/release program headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, which was both fascinating and frustrating.  Today I would like to pass along some thoughts on its natural history and captive care.

Description

The Eastern Indigo Snake is among the longest of all North American snakes; in the USA, only the Bullsnake, Pituophis catenifer sayi, regularly rivals it in size.  Robust and alert, the Eastern Indigo Snake averages 5-6 feet in length, with a record of 8 feet, 5 inches.  The glossy, blue-black coloration is unique to this species.  Some individuals, greatly favored in the pet trade, sport heads and chins highlighted by a reddish tint.

Natural History

The Eastern Indigo Snake is restricted to southeastern Georgia, southeastern Mississippi, and Florida.  Although coastal dunes, Palmetto scrub, agricultural areas and marsh fringes are colonized, healthy populations seem to require large expanses of longleaf pine forest and similar upland environments.  Human development within prime Indigo habitat has severely threatened this species’ future.  Today, only captive-born individuals may be legally sold, but over-collection was a severe problem in the past.

The Texas Indigo Snake (D. corais erebennus) ranges from southern Texas to central Mexico, while other relatives, known as Cribos, inhabit Central and South America.

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Captive Care of Latin American Ratsnakes – The Tiger Ratsnake

Hi, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist and book author, recently retired from a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.  The first time I saw an adult Tiger Ratsnake (Spilotes pullatus pullatus) streaking through the brush in Costa Rica, I was immediately struck by the appropriateness of its local name – the Thunder and Lightning Snake.  Large, fast-moving, and eye-catching in coloration, this impressive beast stopped me in my tracks and made me gasp.  I’d captured dozens of adult Green Anacondas and handled thousands of other snakes in zoos and the wild, but this Tiger Ratsnake was in a class by itself.  Small wonder that it draws attention throughout its huge range, where it is known by many common names, including Tropical Ratsnake and Tropical Chicken Snake (the latter refers to its food preference on farms).  The first individual I encountered eluded me, but I was eventually able to get my hands on other wild specimens, and to care for a few in captivity.

Tiger Ratsnake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Geoff Gallice

Description

Although not usually classified among the “giant serpents”, the Tiger Ratsnake is actually one of the longest snakes in the Americas.  Adults average 6-7 feet in length, but may reach 10 feet; 14-foot-long individuals have been reported.  They vary a good deal in color and pattern, but whether lemon-yellow with indigo-blue blotches or solid black speckled with orange, they are always stunning. Read More »

Habits of the World’s Largest Snakes – the African Rock Python

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  As a child pouring over Clifford Pope’s classic book The Giant Snakes, I came across an account of an African Rock Python (Python sebae) that had consumed a 130 pound impala antelope.  I pictured the scene, and determined to learn more about this largest of all African snakes.  As a teenager, I went to work for a well-known NYC animal importer.  In the course of unpacking hundreds of African Rock Pythons, all straight from the wild, I came to respect their ferocity – Reticulated Pythons, huge Florida Green Watersnakes, Anacondas and other notable “nasties” paled in comparison!  Working at the Bronx Zoo’s herpetology department, I read reams of Copeia, Herpetological Review and Herpetologica back issues, always scouting for unusual feeding records.  I was not disappointed…certain populations of African Rock pythons seem especially capable, even by large constrictor standards, of taking huge prey items…humans included (please also see this article on human predation by Reticulated Pythons).  Incidentally, the impala mentioned above may be the largest snake meal ever documented.  It was recorded in 1955 in South Africa – the 60 pound deer regurgitated by a Green Anaconda I tagged in Venezuela pales in comparison! Read More »

Milksnake Care – Keeping the Sinaloan Milksnake and Related Species

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The various Milksnakes are among the world’s most beautifully-colored reptiles.  Most are quite hardy, easy to handle and breed, and can be kept in modestly-sized terrariums.  Milksnakes are grouped with Kingsnakes in the genus Lampropeltis, which contains 16 species.  Sometimes referred to as “Tri-Colored Kingsnakes”, the most popular types are considered to be subspecies of L. triangulum.  Among the 26 subspecies of L. triangulum  we find the gorgeous and highly-desirable Sinaloan, Pueblan, Nelson’s, Black, and Honduran Milksnakes, along with others that are a bit more difficult to keep but well-worth the consideration of experienced keepers.

Honduran Milksnake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by :Haplochromis

The following general information can be applied to Milksnake care of both popular species and subspecies.  However, details vary, especially as regards those native to higher elevations or with specific food preferences.  Please post below for detailed information on the care of individual species. Read More »

Rock Python Kills Full-Grown Husky in Florida

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  At least 45 species of non-native reptiles and amphibians have established breeding populations in Florida.  The most notorious of these, the Burmese Python, Python bivittatus, has been much in the news in recent years.  Recently, however, another of the state’s introduced giant constrictors grabbed the headlines.

Female Rock Python

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tigerpython

On Sept. 10, 2013, a Northern African Rock Python, P. sebae, killed a 60 pound husky in a suburban yard near the Everglades.  While much has been made of the threats posed by large constrictors, what interested me most about this incident was the fact that the snake involved was quite small by Rock Python standards.  Despite being only 10 foot long and 38 pounds in weight, the snake was able to overcome and kill a 60 pound dog.

Based on my experiences with large constrictors in the Bronx Zoo and the wild, I would guess that the attack was defensive in nature.  The only 60 pound snake meal I’ve witnessed (a White-tailed Deer) involved a 17 foot long, 215 pound Green Anaconda…and its huge body appeared stretched to its limit. Read More »

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